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Sports

A Second Act In Miami For Alex Rodriguez.

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Lynne Sladky AP
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Miami Herald
New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez leaves the stadium after completing a physical for spring training baseball, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in Tampa, Fla.

I've been trying to find the best example of the tragic hero to describe the career of Alex Rodriguez. I think about Jay Gatsby, a man born with glaring good looks but so insecure in his character that he creates these fantastical stories and throws the most outlandish parties to impress one woman.

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Credit Details Magazine
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Details Magazine photo spread of Alex Rodriguez in 2009. He later admitted on the Jimmy Fallon show he regrets taking that picture.

On some level, Alex Rodriguez reminds me of Anakin Skywalker from episodes II and III (which were actually the fifth and sixth Star Wars movies). Remember how Skywalker was dubbed The Chosen One but then throws it all away and eventually gives in to the dark side?  

Rodriguez was THAT kid. He was The Chosen One. He was going to be the greatest shortstop in the history of the game. He was eventually going to become the Homerun King. He had it all. And then, like so many of his era, he succumbed to using performance enhancing drugs.

Now all those accomplishments in his long career are questionable. Many sports writers are now debating if they'll ever vote him into the Hall of Fame. As of now, Rodriguez' best chance of getting into the Hall is if he buys a ticket.

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Credit Appleton Foxes baseball card
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Alex Rodriguez’s Appleton Foxes baseball card from the summer of 1994.

And that's sad. He was a gifted player who could have called it quits this week, walking away a beloved star. Instead, he leaves with no fanfare. He doesn't get a Derek Jeter or Kobe Bryant farewell tour. All he gets are questions about his accomplishments.  

I wonder how Miamians feel about him. Rodriguez was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood from Dominican parents. But he eventually moved to Miami, where he attended Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay. He was the first round draft pick straight out of high school. By the age of 18 he was already wowing fans, not just in Seattle, but across the country. 

I don't like to refer to athletes as heroes, but they can be an powerful motivators. Sometimes they can inspire entire countries or cultures, like Muhammad Ali or the US Men's Hockey Team in 1980 and so on. Rodriguez could have been THAT GUY. But, somewhere along the way he lost his way. He didn't handle fame well and like others who were accused of steroid use, like Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds, he decided that juicing up was necessary, even though he was loaded with physical talent and prowess.

And I bring this up because Rodriguez still does play a big role in the lives of young people. He has strong ties to the University of Miami, and no doubt is in contact with players. He's also very involved with his alma mater, and according to the current coach, is involved with the players of the baseball team. What is he sharing with these players about his mistakes? How often does he talk about choices and consequences with these young men?

I recently spoke with Emil Castellanos, varsity baseball coach at Westminster Christian High School, about Rodriguez' commitment to helping his alma mater.

I am by no means trying to tear down the man, I don't even know him. I'll also accept the fact that he played during the steroid era of baseball, and like other greats, he might have felt it necessary to do what he did because of the pressures of the game. I've also accepted that there might be a lot we never know about what all happened with the use of performance enhancing drugs. 

What I am getting at is,  I hope he's at least taking a moment to talk to those young men, any young man he comes into contact with, and telling them about choices and consequences.